This year, I've been asked to give the reflection in chapel. (Religious school = weekly chapel) I'd like to share my words here. This is more than I usually share of myself and my personal beliefs; I'm not much one for talking about my faith with others. However, I find care and stewardship of the Earth so important, and I am excited to share my message.
This is long, so I've put this behind a cut.
I love being in the chapel. The surroundings are inspiring, from the stained glass windows to the pipe organ and the well-worn pews. But this beautiful chapel, or even the most glorious cathedral, pales in the light of what exists beyond these walls. Those in my classes know that nature is a passion for me. I often proclaim that each new topic is my favorite. I can’t help it; I truly am inspired by the outdoors. To me, God has no finer chapel than nature. In my native Pacific Northwest of the United States, the towering trees and a ground covered in ferns speaks to the glory of creation. Here in Minnesota, I see God in the wildflowers that will soon blanket the ground and in the beautiful fall colors as autumn turns cold.
This God of mine is ever-changing. The church year reminds us of that, as we celebrate the cycle of life and death. We have just come from Easter, the time of new life in Jesus, and it’s fitting that Earth Day comes immediately after this year. Easter dovetails with the pagan celebrations of new life in the springtime, and that is exactly what we are seeing outside. Nature is a unique creation that is born and reborn each year. But just because the earth comes back to life in the spring does not mean that life here is always the same.
In the church I grew up in, we say that “God is still speaking.” The truth of God is not eternal but changes as life changes. This means that we are called to listen to God, and our world, and respond to the needs and changes that we see. I see this in the evolution of life and creation; evolution doesn’t occur for some fixed purpose but rather happens as living beings respond to the challenges and confines of life. In the same way, too, we as a people are called to respond to the challenges that occur here on Earth.
In the scripture today, we were reminded in Genesis that God called people to be stewards of the Earth. This is different from ownership – we are called to care for the Earth and the organisms that live here. Even in my own lifetime, we humans have developed an understanding that what we once thought was sustainable is no longer healthy for the Earth. The reading from Job even foreshadows this new understanding; by listening to the birds in the air and the fish in the sea, we can learn from their wisdom. I worry that we don’t always listen and respond to what creation tells us. Some say that it is impossible for humans to change their ways, but we have done so before and can do so again.
In the 1970s, Rachel Carson listened to the birds in the air. Really, she listened to the lack of birds and realized that our use of the chemical pesticide DDT was killing birds. This pesticide weakened bird shells and caused many birds to accidentally kill their babies while sitting on the nest. She and others campaigned to ban DDT. Since then, the populations of eagles and other birds have rebounded. When I was a child, seeing an eagle was a rare sight. I’m delighted at all the eagles we see today in the air.
Just like Rachel Carson and countless others, I strive to be a good steward for nature. I regularly ask myself if my choices I make reflect my love of nature and creation. I listen: what is God asking me to do? What words come forth from the new challenges we face as a globe. What does God say in response to the challenges of global climate change, or pollution, or habitat destruction? I listen, reflect, and then act. My own actions reflect my respect and love of nature.
My love of nature truly has guided my life and the decisions I have made. Sometimes, it’s small things: I recycle regularly, and I bring canvas bags to the store so that I don’t have to take a plastic one. Sometimes, it’s big things: I chose to study biology in college and graduate school, and I’ve spent many hours hanging out in swamps with insects and tadpoles. What you all may not know is that my passion for nature also brought me here to Minnesota. One night, while looking for a job as my graduation from grad school loomed, I googled the phrase “teaching nature to children.” I found an internship at River Bend Nature Center and applied. Just two weeks after starting my job, I met a fellow by the name of Matt [last name]. You can probably guess what happened next. My love for nature and the path of my life have gone hand in hand together. Just as I have became a steward for nature, nature has been a steward for me.
I encourage you all to find a way to be good stewards for the Earth. The Earth needs care from each and every one of us. How can you make a contribution? What living things in our creation make you come alive? Embrace that. Work to be a steward for this wonderful gift we have all been given, and appreciate the goodness that nature returns to you.